The Food Safety & Nutrition Council (one of the activist groups hosted by our chavurah) met on Monday and Tuesday to talk about corn syrup. We had speakers from several food analysis and testing companies, as well as a couple of former CEO's from two major commercial farming operations in the Midwest, whose major offerings include corn and processed corn products.
Corn syrup is used in the manufacture of the majority of commercially available foods in the United States. Food manufacturers use a variety of corn syrup analogs, all derived from hydrolyzed corn starch obtained from corn kernels. Typical corn syrup analogs include corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup solids (dried). On a product ingredient list, these analogs can show up under a number of other names, such as modified corn starch, maltodextrin, or just plain corn starch.
In an ever-increasing effort to increase their margins, food manufacturers and processors are using a growing number of corn syrup derivatives to spruce up the taste of poor quality foodstuffs, to adulterate food products so they don't have to use as large a quantity of other ingredients in their products, to boost or manipulate the caloric content of foods, to help enhance the consistency of their products by homogenizing ingredients that separate easily or won't mix well with each other, and finally, to help increase the shelf life of many foods (sugar can be used as a spoilage inhibitor).
The digestive enzyme necessary to convert these analogs into sugar is located in the saliva in people, which means that corn syrup analogs, most of which contain a mixture of sugar and starch, are converted almost immediately to pure sugar in the stomach. Although they are not technically pure sugars, they might as well be, since their effect on the human body is the same.
Interestingly enough, because these analogs are not technically sugar products, manufacturers are not required to list them under the sugar category of the nutrition labels found on most food products in the United States. This means that the loaf of whole-wheat bread you just bought, which contains a significant amount of high fructose corn syrup and for which the nutrition label says contains less than 3g of sugar per serving, might actually contain nearly 20g sugar per serving once it reaches your stomach. So much for the diet you've been failing to see the results of for the past year or so. It isn't your fault.
Corn syrup analogs are being strongly implicated as THE major cause of obesity in the United States, the rate of which has been quickly increasing, as well as of the enormous increase of Type II diabetes, which is strongly associated with obesity. Additionally, corn syrup analogs in food are increasingly being associated with serious immune system disorders, including lupus and asthma.
Read the labels of what you buy in the supermarket - you'd be absolutely amazed where corn syrup analogs are now appearing! Once limited to sugary snack items such as cakes, cookies and jams/jellies, corn syrup adulterants are now showing up all over the place, including fruit juices, milk products, cheeses, pot pies, steak sauces, spices, TV dinners, frozen entrees, frozen vegetables, ice creams and "pure" fruit snacks. We were amazed to learn that some soups, canned and dried, can be made up of as much as 50% corn syrup adulterants.
In fast food, you can find corn syrup analogs even appearing in the french fries, the chicken bits and in the hamburgers. Who ever thought corn syrup would end up being used in hamburgers?? Uggghhhh!
Do you need this adulterant? No. But, according to our speakers, you (and especially your kids) wouldn't eat much of the garbage that manufacturers are now calling "food" without it, since these food products would taste so bad. The sugar covers up the off flavors caused by component spoilage and poor quality that would otherwise dominate the flavor character of the product.
Does it add anything to the food besides taste? Yes. Corn syrup analogs add calories, and lots of them. Additionally, many Americans have a strong sensitivity to corn products and these corn syrup additives exacerbate this sensitivity, resulting in increased rates of morbid complications related to obesity (diabetes is just one of these), asthma, allergies, digestive problems and auto-immune diseases, such as lupus and irritable bowel disease.
Every year, the Council reviews a large number of food products and creates a list, distributed to our chavurah membership, of what the Council feels are safe and nutritious products. Last year, we removed about 15 products from the list because of the large amounts of Trans fats they contained. This year, largely as a result of what was discussed at this seminar, the Council decided to remove about three dozen products from our list of Healthy & Nutritious Food Products because of their use of corn syrup analogs.
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